Sunday, April 11, 2021
By far the majority of Beethoven’s 179 folk song compositions were settings of Irish tunes. The Edinburgh-based publisher George Thomson worked with many famous poets and composers to rescue and immortalize folk culture, but his work with Robert Burns to upgrade the texts of Irish ditties was cut short by Burns’ untimely death in 1796, and the great Irish poet Thomas Moore elected to work independently of Thomson. As a result, Beethoven received only tunes but no texts from Thomson, and song texts, many by less well-known poets, were attached to the finished settings upon publication.
Beethoven’s 72 settings of Irish songs are divided into three collections. Today we hear the first three songs from WoO 152: “The Return to Ulster”, Sweet Power of Song”, and “Once More I Hail Thee”.